Preseason NFL betting tips: Head coaches and quarterbacks

By Adam Burke  ( 

August 6, 2023 06:46 PM

Betting on the NFL preseason can be a good investment

The NFL preseason really begins on Thursday, August 10. No offense to the Hall of Fame Game, but the coaches generally don’t put a lot of effort or emphasis on the extra exhibition game, and it is all third, fourth, and fifth-string guys just looking to make some kind of impact. Few, if any, players of consequence play in that game on an annual basis.

Now that the NFL has shaved down the number of preseason games from four to three and given teams extra time prior to Week 1, coaches are handling these contests a little bit differently. Fewer reps are available and that sometimes means more prominent players are out there a little bit longer. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many games there are.

Here are three betting tips to keep in mind for the preseason:

Listen to the coaches

You know the best part about the preseason? The coaches usually tell you what they’re going to do. During training camp, beat writers get a lot more unfiltered access during the preseason because there isn’t as much need for gamesmanship or secrecy. The win-loss records matter very little, so if a player is hurt, you’ll know it. If a starter isn’t going to play, you’ll usually know it. If the coach isn’t happy with the running game or pass protection, you know that will be a point of emphasis, and that is a valuable piece of intel.

Follow the beat writers and news sources that are out there for information on the state of the team and the practices, and it should really help you handicap the game.

Handicap the coaches

Not only do you want to listen to the coaches, but you also want to handicap them. Some coaches seem to put more stock in creating a winning culture when it comes to the “meaningless” exhibition games. Other coaches just want to make sure that everybody gets their work in and the game goes as close to perfect as possible from a health standpoint.

Success in the preseason is absolutely built into the line for some guys. For example, John Harbaugh of the Ravens is a ridiculous 38-16-1 ATS in the preseason and has actually won 23 consecutive preseason games straight up. Sean McDermott of the Bills is off to a 12-5-1 ATS start to his career. Mike Tomlin has gone 15-4 SU in his last 19 preseason games and 37-24 overall, despite having about a .500 ATS record (31-29-1).

On the flip side, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is 5-5 ATS, but 3-7 SU in his 10 preseason games. After a 4-0 start with the Eagles, Doug Pederson is 4-12 SU, including 0-4 SU last preseason with the Jaguars. He’s 8-12 ATS in 20 career preseason contests.

Know QB3 and QB4

For the first week of the preseason, starting QBs will play very little, and most won’t play at all, so your bet will be decided by the third or fourth-string quarterback. Plays break down a lot late in games as rookies and guys with limited experience finish out the game, so I like to prioritize mobile quarterbacks who can improvise and make something out of nothing.

For some teams, those guys will play a lot in the second half in Week 2 as well. As mentioned, the coaches will tell you their plans, but it is up to you to know who you are betting on when it’s crunch time and the game is likely to be decided. Some of the QBs down the depth chart are recent late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents. Others are veterans who have had a lot of reps in the preseason but just aren’t good enough to get rostered consistently in the regular season. Know the depth chart!

Lastly, not a tip, but just a piece of advice - don’t shy away from betting on preseason NFL. It will be the only three weeks of the season when coaches are honest and forthright, and that can lead to some strong betting opportunities if you are paying attention and thinking critically about the games.

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